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The Big, Bad Financial Truth About Life After Divorce

Divorce may have taken away my happiness for a long while. It may have taken away the stability in my life -- not only financially but in so many other ways. But divorce has not robbed me of my dreams.
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Portrait of a worried woman in cafe bar.
Portrait of a worried woman in cafe bar.

Recently I was catching up with one of my close author friends, who, like me, is a recent divorcée, and in our discussion on post-divorce life, we discovered a commonality that was all at once surprising, horrifying, and hilarious. Both of us had recently been to the grocery store and while trying to live within our insanely tight post-divorce budgets, we had each ogled packages of juicy figs but had decided that they were too expensive. In my case, the figs were only $3.99, but since I am literally counting hard-boiled eggs at home and rationing spinach leaves, figs are just taking things too damn far right now.

When my friend told me that she, too, had decided against the figs -- but damn did she want them -- I could not help but burst into laughter.

How ridiculous and sad that two multi-published authors -- who at one point in our careers were making six figures and answering so much reader mail we couldn't see straight -- have arrived here. Still writing, still striving, still trying to make this single writer thing work for us, but somehow we have arrived at the point of not being able to buy figs.

How did this happen, we wondered? How on earth did we get here, and more importantly, how do we get as far away from here as possible?

It's not about the figs, people.

What this is really about is that financial insecurity -- and in many cases, complete financial devastation -- is a reality of post-divorce life for many women, and it's a reality we rarely talk about.

It's a reality we are embarrassed to admit. That without our once-stable marriages and our husbands' stable incomes, we can't even buy a damn package of figs without worrying about the consequences.

It's embarrassing and exhausting to constantly turn down dinner requests from friends who are boasting those lovely six-figure incomes and to tell them, yet again, that I'm not in a position to do nice dinners out. People, I can't buy the fucking figs so I clearly can't do extravagant dinners.

There are many reasons that I have landed where I am financially. Being severely depressed for a significant portion of the three years I have been on my own and not having it in me to produce a new book every few months; not asking for alimony; and of course some poor decision-making on my part are just a few of those reasons.

Another reason is that I am committed to my craft as a writer. For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health -- I am married to my career. I need to write as much as I need to breathe. And so I have worked out every conceivable alternate career arrangement in my post-divorce life so that I can keep writing... and keep breathing.

I have built a wonderful French tutoring business with some of the most amazing, dedicated students I've ever known in my ten years of teaching. I teach writing, I teach yoga, I take care of babies, I walk dogs, I feed cats, and I don't get a lot of sleep. Because in the minutes and hours when I'm not doing all of those things, I'm writing.

I'm not depressed anymore, thankfully, and because of this beautiful feeling of happiness I'm experiencing, I have the energy and the drive to whip out books again like it's my job.

Because it is my job.

And not being able to afford figs is only temporary.

Divorce may have taken away my happiness for a long while. It may have taken away the stability in my life -- not only financially but in so many other ways.

But divorce has not robbed me of my dreams.

Of my courage. Of my desire to write and to share my stories with readers and to watch my books shoot to the top of the charts once again... and again... and again... and again.

That will happen because I'm stubborn and I simply will not stop writing.

And in the meantime, if I have to count eggs and ration my spinach leaves, then so be it. That is a choice I am making, plus I'm thankful for the eggs and the spinach. I'm thankful, too, for my friend who understands what it's like to not be able to buy figs but who thinks it's so damn funny because we know this isn't forever. And we're going to keep writing anyway.

It always takes courage to be on your own, to live without a safety net, and to persevere in the face of heartbreak, loss, and uncertainty. It takes courage to follow your calling, no matter what.

And it takes courage to admit to your friends and loved ones that this is just where you're at right now.

So, this is just where I'm at. And I refuse to be embarrassed about it any longer. I'm not ashamed. Instead, I'm amazed that I've come so far from the girl who once laid on her bathroom floor contemplating suicide because she saw no other way out. Divorce took me there, but I survived, and I found a way out -- and that way was through.

And so if the problem of the figs is my biggest problem these days, well, I'm lucky.

I'm alive. I'm working. I'm writing, and I'm laughing.

And one day, my author friend and I are going to throw a fig party for all of the divorced women who've been in our shoes. Don't worry ladies, the figs are on me!